Cannabis for Your Pet? Recent Symposium Shed Light on Obstacles Facing This Issue

Veterinary experts and pet owners earlier this month came together for a symposium focused on the potential therapeutic application of cannabinoids for pets.

Veterinary professionals and pet owners recently gathered at Colorado State University to share the latest research findings around the therapeutic use of cannabis in animals. The 2017 Cannabis in Veterinary Medicine Symposium took place on Saturday, October 7, at CSU’s Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, CO.

At the one-day symposium, six top Colorado veterinarians and an attorney that specializes in representing companies in the cannabis industry gave talks designed for both pet owners and animal medical experts. Topics of the presentations included:

  • The basics of how cannabis works
  • Its potential applications in veterinary medicine
  • Product selection and administration tips
  • Toxicity concerns
  • Legal considerations
  • Latest research findings

A common theme among the event’s presentations was the need for more pet cannabis research, as the legal status of cannabis creates regulatory challenges and logistic obstacles for scientists interested in studying the potential therapeutic properties of cannabis and its cannabinoids.

Research Into CBD for Pets

Scientists at CSU — the symposium’s host — have been spearheading the nation’s research into cannabis for pets. They’re in the midst of investigating whether cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, is effective and safe for treating epilepsy and osteoarthritis in dogs.

Dr. Stephanie McGrath, who specializes in neurology, is leading the two trials. She presented at the symposium, giving details about her institution’s investigation into CBD for canine epilepsy.

“We have diseases that we don’t have treatments for that work, so there’s a problem. A solution to that problem is trying to find a solution that does work, so we are always searching,” McGrath told Westword.

CBD is one of over 80 cannabinoids so far identified in cannabis. Like all cannabinoids, CBD interacts with the body’s naturally occurring endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system, found in all mammals – including dogs, cats, and humans — is tasked with regulating a wide array of processes and keeping them in balance. Immune response, mood, appetite, and pain response are just some of the many processes regulated by the endocannabinoid system. CBD binds to endocannabinoid receptors in the body to support the system’s efforts in keeping functions in homeostasis.

While studies on the efficacy of pet cannabis as of right now is lacking, in preclinical and human clinical studies, CBD has shown to have anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, pain relieving, and anti-anxiety properties that some animal owners believe could help manage arthritis, discomfort, seizures, and separation anxiety in their pets.

Despite the limited research, pet owners have begun experimenting with CBD for a range of ailments in their pets – in most cases giving CBD oil to their dogs and cats orally. CBD oil derived from imported hemp is treated and sold as a dietary supplement in the U.S., and therefore legally available in most major markets. Because CBD oil contains little to no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it is non-psychoactive and won’t get the animals high or sedated.

“That, along with this drug becoming legalized, prompted a lot more questions from clients and veterinarians,” added McGrath. “And [with] me being unable to answer their questions, that really bothered me. So the more I started looking, the more I realized what a void there was in cannabis research.”

More About Cannabis for Pets

As a growing number of pet owners are giving their dogs CBD, the American Veterinary Medical Association recently approved a resolution to begin exploring how to advocate for the rescheduling of cannabis so that it would be easier to collect data on cannabis efficacy, dosage, safety, and delivery systems in humans and animals. Veterinarians at Colorado State University are in the midst of studying the safety and efficacy of CBD in dogs.

Keep up with the latest research into cannabis by regularly visiting our Scientific Research page and through our Education page.